Nerd Brigade in Session

Lord Kat (left), being eaten by the necronomicon.

This past Saturday, a  friend and I, along with other Soldiers of Kickassia –  that is, fans of  That Guy With The Glasses -  converged on New York to meet with Lord Kat, gaming  enthusiast and critic for TGWTG.  The meeting, which involved a mass exodus of nerds following Kat through the streets of NYC to Bryant Park, was intended to be a small  group affair, but drew over 40 devoted followers. Kat answered questions and shared anecdotes about his work, particularly TGWTG’s recent 2 year anniversary crossover special, Kickassia.

Tower of Duraga vs Strike Witches

Caught two series a few weeks back, but, being lazy, and now no longer forced to post stuff on a weekly basis, I put off a review. However, I have summer classes coming up…well, tomorrow, so I figured, before shit gets crazy (and yes, this is no longer a school project, so I can say shit now) I thought I’d post something.

I had caught  Tower of Duraga on Hulu. The first episode was hilarious, and, being a fan of RPG’s, I was hooked. Based on a dungeon-crawler video game, the series centers around a loser, Jil, who lives in a village located entirely inside a large tower. The upper levels are inhabited by monsters of all shapes and sizes, with the top dominated by the evil god Duraga. Hoping to one day become a hero like King Gilgamesh (who, prior to being king, was the hero of the original 1984 game), and in spite of his resentful brother, Neeba, Jil manages to acquire a group of heroes and set off to defeat Duraga once again. The series manages to both parody and play straight many of the tropes commonly associated with RPG’s, and makes more than a few nods to the original game. Highly recommended to gamers in general and D and D enthusiasts in particular.

Not so recommended is Strike Witches, a series whose American release, quite frankly, should have been accompanied by an AMBER Alert. Remember the trailer I posted several weeks back?  The show seemed to have some comedy potential (if a little uncomfortable fanservice), however, what results is a mix of slightly amusing cliches and dramatic fluff mixed with a lot of really uncomfortable fanservice. The plot takes place in an alternate timeline, circa 1942, where, instead of Nazis, the earth is attacked by strange aliens called the neuroi. Female magic users, known as witches, are brought together by the military and used to combat the invading menace using special mechanized boots, called brooms, that allow the young women to fly. The girls in question, although each based on real life  WW2 fighter pilots (their “brooms” based on actual planes), are pretty much moe stereotypes. The story, though sounding intriguing at first, is just convoluted (it does make me wonder how someone like Edward O’Hare or Pierre Clostermann would feel about being personified as an overly sexualized 14-year old Japanese girl with magic powers and propeller boots) and too dramatic to be funny, or even mildly amusing. Overall, unless you have a serious witch fetish, and/or are a pedophile, it’s not worth your time.

The Winner: Tower of Duraga

End of Semester Report

The past few months have been an interesting experience for me, as it has been the first time I kept up with a blog on a regular basis. And now, I have something  to confess: this blog was started as part of an online journalism class. In fact, everything you’ve read so far has been judged and graded by a professor at Rowan University. Being given the  option to end the blog, I’ve decided to keep it going (having almost 900 hits at this point, I figure somebody’s got to be reading it).

On going back over what I’ve done so far, the Greg Ayres Interview stands out, not only because it recieved a good deal of traffic, but because of how fortunate I was to get it. The Lolicon article was the most popular by far, being a controversial subject, and a complicated issue in the anime community. The “Two Nukes Not Enough” article got some traffic, as I caught  the story as it was catching on.

A personal favorite was the U-Con at  UCONN photo post, because it was my first time covering  an anime convention.

The post I worked hardest on was easily The Anime Tour of New York.

Now that the semester is over, I’ll be dividing my time between Otaku’s Delight and  my two other blogs, The Witches Dance and The Cinema Cell, and will not be updating as frequently. However, I  still have plenty of reviews lined up, along with an article on the history of anime, so stay tuned.

The Anime Tour of New York

On April 24, members of the Doki Doki Anime Club took a trip up to New York, as we do every three or four months, to check out the sights, sounds and tastes of Anime culture. Our first stop was Mitsuwa marketplace in Edgewater, NJ. As close as you can get to Japan without leaving the country, Mitsuwa features restaurants, including an authentic Ramen stand, and a supermarket  specializing in Japanese inports. From there, we took a shuttlebus into NY, where we used the subway to navigate to our favorite haunts, incuding Kinokuniya bookstore, J and L games, and the Chinatown Fair Arcade.

If you’re an Anime fan, there’s no better way to find the collectibles you want – that is, the rare DVDs, the CDs of your favorite J-Pop bands, the games, figures, stuffed animals, art books and everything else – than shopping in the Big Apple. You just have to know where to look. As  mentioned before, Kinokuniya is an awesome  stop,  as  is Elizabeth   Center, Image Anime, Midtown Comics, and Forbidden Planet.

If you want to try the  kind of food your favorite anime characters eat, NY is the perfect place to do it. Prior to my first NY  trip, my experience with Ramen was limited to the cheap bags you find in the supermarket (of the kind perferred by starving college students). However, there’s no comparison with an authentic Ramen Bowl (if you’ve seen the early episodes of Naruto, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about).  There’s also a wide assortment of sushi, pastries, including taiyaki and gourmet cake, authentic bento boxes, and plenty of beverages like aloe drink (yuck) and Boss Coffee. And that’s just at Mitsuwa. Once you get into the city, there’s Yoshinoya (a Japanese fast food restaurant), Mei Lai Wah Coffee house (which has the greatest pork buns, both steamed and baked, known to man), and, located in a back alley, the dumpling  place. Not to mention a wide array of sushi restaurants and stores.

While on this journey, I sought to figure out what it was about anime and Japanese culture that had such an effect on Americans. Asking around, I found that some had  grown up with it, becoming attached  to shows without even realizing where they came from (shows such as Speed Racer and Star Blazers, for example, were anime before the term anime even existed). Others were drawn by a chance encounter with a movie or series, forever changed by a radically different means of storytelling. As for the why, the  response was always the same: there’s just some thing different, more mature, about the way animation is handled in Japan, a difference that allow the stories to be told and expressed in ways that American filmmakers are only starting to catch on to.

Altogether, the trip was a success. Now tired, poverty-striken, but pleased, we await our return by doing the one thing that Otaku are known for – watching anime.

If you are interested in taking the Anime Tour of New York, here’s a map marked with some places of interest.

My Balls

I put off reviewing manga all this time, and when I finally get around to  it, what do I end up choosing as my topic?

My Balls.

No, seriously, that’s the American title.

Ah, harem manga. As with harem anime, the object of the writer is to appease a horde of virginal loser males (ie, the audience) by presenting an impossibly ludicrous situation, in which one such loser male is, by a freak occurence, occult conspiracy, or just plain dumb luck, hunted down and romanced by a bevy of highly attractive females, whether he likes  it or not.

The provocative title of the work in question only hints at  the gleefully obscene concept invented for said loser protagonist. The year is 20xx (don’t ask), and the malevolent Queen of Terror conspires to bring about the  end of the world in a torrent of bloodshed. An angel of light tries to save humanity by trapping the Queen forever in an enchanted orb, sealing her inside with a heavenly arrow…only to miss, and hit the crotch of Satou Kohta, the virginal loser protagonist, who at the time happened to be urinating  against a tree nearby. The angel then reveals to a mystified Kohta that the fate of the world now rests on his, eh, shoulders, for the queen is now trapped inside his testicles. In order to keep the world safe, Kohta must abstain from sowing his wild oats in any way, for a period of thirty days, or the Queen will escape. Que the seductive denizens of hell, who are out to free their Queen by any means necessary, including tempting Kohta to “free the  beast” at  every opportunity, using mind games (such as making his co-worker crush’s wardrobe become transparent), physical and mental abuse, and even downright trying to rape him. Isn’t love wonderful?

I guess the artwork is okay. Its typical for a manga of this type. The lead demon girl Elyse reminds me visually of Etna from Disgaea. There’s plenty of nudity, and uncomfortable situations (more so than normal, at one point, Elyse actually circumcises Kohta in an effort to entice him to do the deed; I can’t help feeling that, were the sexes reversed, the manga would get banned and the manga-ka would be strung up by his own balls…On second thought, considering that this is hentai, women have probably fared much, much worse).

Yes, I understand that this is supposed to be dirty, but hey, sexual assault, even in an ironically reverse way, is still sexual assault.

Overall,  I’d say an interesting piece of erotica, though does appeal more to a sense  of masochism on the  part of male readers, that is, if the title and concept don’t put them off first.

Ali Project

I admit, I’m not hugely into J-pop music the way that some otaku are. However, every one in a while, I’ll come across an Anime opening/ending credit song that manages to get my attention. The opening to Rozen Maiden, Kinjaretta Asobi (Forbidden Play) by the band Ali Project was one such song, enough that during one of my excursions to New York, I sought out one of  their best-of albums (which is really hard, when much of the writing on the cover is in kanji, and stuck in with racks full of other albums also written in kanji).

The video below is for Kitei no Tsurugi (Sword of the Demon King), the opening for Linebarrels of Iron:

Carl Macek Passes Away

Anime producer Carl Macek, responsible for the American release  of  such titles as Robotech, Akira and Lady Death, passed away of a heart attack on Saturday.

Along with animation historian Jerry Beck,  Macek started Streamline Pictures in 1988. Streamline is responsible for importing many of the series that made the Anime industry what it is today.

“He will be missed by so many of us,” wrote Greg Ayres on his Facebook page. “The anime industry has truly lost a “Giant”, and one hell of a story teller….Rest In Peace friend.”

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